Author : John Logan

“I don’t want you to die,” said Vincent.

The words didn’t actually transfer as sound to any part of my ear. They were signals which ran from a dermal connection on Vincent’s body, through my hand, and up into my brain where they were interpreted by my cerebral cortex with the help of a nano-sized mechanism called a Xybot.

“So what,” I said. I actually spoke these words but Vincent understood. He just had his own way of communicating because he didn’t have a mouth. He was a gun. A Black Widow Class V made by the Demiyan Corporation. The shiny silver of his body turned a tint of green. A trick he often used to convey his mellow mood. He was only supposed to use it for camouflage, but Vincent loved melodrama.

“Why don’t you sleep on it?” he said. “We can talk again tomorrow.”

I lifted my hand, Vincent included, so that I felt the cold touch of his muzzle next to my temple. “Because I don’t want you to talk me out of it like last time,” I replied.

There was a pause. “You aren’t a bad person,” he said. He often told me this. It was one of the many techniques he used to console me.

“Of course I am. I shot that woman,” I said. “She just wanted her freedom, that’s all.” The memory of it stung me like it had happened just today and not two years ago on a colony world that orbited a star six light years away.

“I shot her,” said Vincent. “Not you. I’m to blame.”

My hand shook and I could feel my resolve weakening. He would have made a good psyche doctor. In fact I often wondered if one of the technicians at Demiyan hadn’t slipped a little something extra into his AI.

“She had a kid with her,” I said softly. “Do you think he survived the purge?”

Vincent felt suddenly heavy in my hand and so I lowered him.

“Nothing survived the purge, you know that,” he said. “Government policy dictates the extermination of all rebels.”

I sighed and stood. The idea of all those people dying under a hail of Kryon rays didn’t sit well with me. Moving to the window, I stared out into the night. A freight ship, the size of a small island, was just taking off. Many of the men on board looking forward to a little rest back home on Mars. I must have stood there just staring for a long time because when Vincent next spoke it startled me out of my dark thoughts.

“I want you to be happy,” he said.

“Well I’m not,” I said. “So why don’t you just let me kill myself.”

“It would be inconvenient,” he said. “I would have to wait for a replacement.”

He was of course talking about the next soldier unlucky enough to be paired with him. Vincent was much older than me—the intelligence that was Vincent, not the gun. I’d never thought to ask him about my predecessors.

“How many have there been before me?” I asked my melancholy forgotten momentarily as the question piqued my curiosity.

“Many,” he said and I felt a creeping feeling of jealousy now that he had confirmed I was not the first. The emotion was unexpected.

“Anyway, I don’t need you,” I said annoyed. “I’ll just hang myself.”

“No you won’t,” he said. “You tried that last time without success.”

Vincent always brought out the worst in me. “I hate you,” I said.

“I know,” he replied.

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